Private Journeys

Family Brazil: Rio, Iguazu Falls and Bahia

15 days from £3,710pp

Brazil


Rights Managed

Overview & Highlights

A truly adventurous family holiday in Brazil to widen the horizons with exhilarating experiences.

  • Visit to samba school in Rio
  • Cable-car ride up Sugar Loaf Mountain (helicopter ride optional, charged extra)
  • Guided visit to bird park at Iguazú
  • Guided discovery of the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls; boat safari
  • Full day guided exploration of the Argentine side of the Falls
  • Panoramic guided tour of historic Salvador
  • Guided opportunity to swim in the natural pools at Rio Serrano, Chapada Diamantina
  • Full day highlights tour of Chapada Diamantina National Park, near Lencois
  • Full day walking-based excursion to the Capao Valley and Fumaca waterfalls

Brazil is a huge, varied country, vibrant, exotic, steamily tropical, full of life. What an opportunity to take the whole family on a holiday which will satisfy everyone’s diverse interests. If you are thrill-seekers, culture-vultures, outdoor or nature enthusiasts, you’ll have a taste of whatever enthuses you most. Stay in Rio de Janeiro, one of the world’s liveliest cities with mountains and jungle right in the heart of the city. Even the ways you get around are exhilarating: ride a helicopter over the beaches, whizz up the Sugar Loaf in a cable car and ascend the impossibly steep Corcovado mountain by train.

After that you’ll all thrill to the power of the Iguazú Falls, which crash over cliffs through rainforest populated by toucans and monkeys: but you won’t just look, you’ll explore close up by boat and on foot, and probably get very wet.

From there, it’s a flight northwards to Bahia, Brazil’s most African-influenced state. Salvador, the capital, has a different vibe from Rio, with a colourful culture reflecting the heritage of the African slaves brought over to work on the plantations. Spot ladies with big smiles selling tropical fruits and young people showing off their skills at the martial art dance capoeira in the street, accompanied by the beat of an African drum which dominates the region’s distinctive musical style. Head inland to Lençois in the remote tableland of Chapada Diamantina, stroll among waterfalls and blue pools, drinking in amazing mountain views. End up at one of the glorious palm-shaded beaches for which the state is justly famous.

Itinerary

Day 1

Transfer from the airport to your hotel in Copacabana.

Yes! You head straight for the beach at Copacabana and your seafront hotel. The excitement starts here:  market stalls sell all sorts of souvenirs, T shirts, hats and beach throws; people cycle in leisurely fashion along the wide promenade, youngsters play football or volleyball on the wide golden sands, beach kiosks are groaning with coconut drinks.

If your flight arrival schedule allows, you might opt for an optional walking tour downtown. Here, there’s a very different feel: it’s not only the business centre. The redundant port facilities (as in London or Cape Town) have been regenerated to welcome visitors, with some incredible street art, more artisan markets and a huge open space housing a fantastic, interactive and space-agey museum, the Museum of Tomorrow.

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Day 2

Samba school experience and cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain.

You have two very contrasting excursions to enjoy today. As you can imagine, Rio Carnival, with all the parades, bands, dancing and elaborate costumes, doesn't just happen spontaneously overnight. All over Rio, preparations and rehearsals take place over up to three months before Mardi Gras, and the creating of the costumes and floats is in process throughout the year. On this guided tour in the outskirts of Rio you will visit the warehouse of one of the city's many samba “schools” which are organised into leagues. Many costumes are on display, and you can even try one on for the ultimate selfie. Your guide will explain all about the history of samba and the structure and competition involved in the carnival parades where each school chooses an annual theme.

In the afternoon, take the cable car up hump-backed Sugarloaf Mountain, from the top of the higher of two peaks there are breath-taking views over the city. There are walkways at the top and viewing platforms facing all directions; on clear days, you'll be treated to a panorama of the sweeping arc of Copacabana beach, the 12km bridge across Guanabara Bay the port of Rio and the city's magnificent mountainous backdrop. For a special treat, you might add on an optional short (6 minute) helicopter flight departing from and returning to the Sugar Loaf. Yes, this offers awesome views, but maybe for children and teens this is the first opportunity actually to ride in a helicopter, and it may be some time before they do it again.

Later there's time for a brief glimpse of downtown Rio, a grid of narrow streets and grand plazas hosting impressive baroque churches. The striking Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches) form an old aqueduct which carries tram cars. You'll also observe the modernistic upturned flower-pot   cathedral, built in the 60s, and the ornate municipal theatre with its golden eagles.

Rio Carnival 2011

Day 3

Visit the Maracanã stadium, take the cog railway up Corcovado mountain.

Head to the Maracanã for a behind-the-scenes tour of what, without doubt, is the world's most famous football stadium. In 1950, the year of its inauguration, a world record breaking 199,854 spectators watched the World Cup final between Brazil and Uruguay. It also packs out for high profile rock concerts and has hosted Pope John Paul II. More recently it was the venue for several matches in the 2014 soccer World Cup and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games.  For football fans that this is an iconic place: the magic footwork of Pele still resonates round the pitch. You’ll have a guided tour of the stadium, while your guide narrates its history and you can ask him or her all about famous games and players who have performed here.

In the afternoon you ascend to the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain. Rio's unmissable highlight, there is probably no better place to appreciate Rio's magnificent cityscape than from atop the 710m high jungle clad Corcovado mountain. Much higher than the Sugar Loaf, it offers more comprehensive views. The ascent is in itself exciting, an electric-powered cog-wheel train climbs steeply through the lush Tijuca rainforest, with its abundant flowers and fruit trees, to the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer. 30m high the statue was erected in the early 1930s and has since become part of Brazil's cultural identity. It has also been declared one of the new Wonders of the World.

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Day 4

Fly south to Iguazú Falls.

From Rio’s airport it’s a two hour jet flight to Iguazú Falls, unquestionably one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena in the world. A total of 275 falls thunder over a 60m high, rust-coloured cliff surrounded by dense tropical forest. The U-shaped Devil’s Throat is the most dramatic sight, here the frothing water of the Iguazú river crashes over a 1.5km-wide precipice and columns of vapour are thrown skyward. Elsewhere the river flows decorously through the rainforest, breaking up into dozens of smaller cascades. You can usually spot toucans and many other exotic birds perched in the foliage above the tumultuous waters.

Later you’ll have a private guided visit to the quirky bird park nearby, it’s British-founded and gives you the chance of seeing up close exotic birds which are normally shy in the wild. Some of the birds, such as the toucan, seem particularly to enjoy contact with people. There are about 900 individual birds here, thriving in large aviaries planted with native sub-tropical foliage. At the entrance, you are welcomed by macaws and parrots, as well as other birds such as the king vulture. To view the birds, reptile area and butterfly zoo, you'll walk along a 1,400m paved trail to enter the aviaries themselves.

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Day 5

Tour of the Brazilian side of the Falls, with Macuco safari.

On the Brazilian side you have a guided tour for a broad panoramic view of these colossal falls, and there are some excellent opportunities to photograph the full sweep of the water. Later, there’s an exhilarating adventure in the national park – the Macuco boat safari. Join an open safari truck for a ride through lush sub-tropical forest full of orchids, tropical birds and lizards.  Next is a guided walk down into the Iguazú Canyon, formed over millions of years through erosion by the receding waterfalls. Upon reaching the banks of the river, the real fun begins: a ride in open boats up the canyon towards the base of the falls. Ahead and above is the main cataract of the Devil's Throat, and the dozens of smaller falls as they cascade over the precipice. It can be a thrilling ride along the rapids and up-close to some of the more benign waterfalls: prepare to get very wet indeed!

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Day 6

Full day guided exploration of the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls.

Cross Fraternity Bridge, which links Brazil with Argentina and pop in to the National Park Visitor Centre, from which a little natural gas-powered train transfers you to Cataratas Station, where the sequence of causeways and passarelles begins. It links dozens of tiny basalt islands at the top of the sheer rock face, and the walkways cross the myriad of streams as they cascade over the lip of the precipice. The train then continues to Devil’s Throat Station and from here a kilometre-long walkway leads across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo, The Devil’s Throat. From this spectacular vantage point you can feel the incredible power of the water as it plummets into the vortex below.

If you enjoyed the Macuco boat safari, there is also an optional boat trip out to the base of the Argentine falls; it’s an exhilarating ride that takes you within touching distance of these thunderous cascades and your clothes and hair are soaked with the spray; it is a truly invigorating experience.

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Day 7

Fly to Salvador de Bahia in the northeast.

The state of Bahía has a distinct African culture - the population is largely descended from plantation slaves and it’s like a country within a country, with its own tradition of music and dance. Here you'll discover not only one of Brazil’s most intriguing cities, but also some of the most beautiful wilderness scenery in the interior.

In a country already renowned for its exotic character and landscapes, Salvador de Bahía is probably the most alluring.  A place rich in the sights and smells of its turbulent history, there is something there for everyone to enjoy. It’s an outdoor city, the spicy aromas of Afro-Bahian cooking waft on the balmy air, offered up for sale by smiling ladies in snazzy tropical dress. Away in the shadows are the mysterious Candomblé ceremonies where present day Salvadorians connect with their African spiritual past. The oldest part of the city sits on a bluff, an art deco funicular elevator takes you down to sea level and 19th century Republican buildings including the Mercado Modelo, a restored Custom’s House, with live music and capoeira  demonstrations.

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Day 8

Guided tour of Salvador.

The vestiges of Portuguese colonial architecture and culture blends well with African traditions in the centre of the city, where the compact historic core has recently been renovated. It’s crammed full of colourful colonial mansions, churches and museums, all clustered around a large open space known as the pelourinho, which is the heart of the city.

You’ll have a private guided walking tour of this neighbourhood, best discovered on foot. The area is enlivened with bars, shops and restaurants, and you can expect spontaneous eruptions of music at every turn. The local cuisine is very much a product of the region and its cultural mélange: you can try out any number of dishes at the many eateries in town.

Tom Parrott ©

Day 9

By road to Lençois in The Chapada Diamantina.

It’s a road journey of around 6 hours to Lençois in the Chapada Diamantina. The pretty, colonial town is a well-watered land of densely vegetated beauty set close to the dusty Sertão desert. The national park's most distinctive features are its table-like mountains. Lençois was the centre of a diamond rush in the 19th century but since the 1980s the accent has been on ecotourism. Your hotel is convenient for visits to the many gift shops, family-style restaurants and bars in this friendly low-key little town, until recently the preserve of hippies and New Age aficionados.

The region has a hot climate all year around, which makes visiting its natural pools, rivers and delightful waterfalls an even more welcoming attraction. In the afternoon you’ll be escorted to Rio Serranos’ natural pools, where, if you dare, you can glide down the natural rock slides of multi-coloured rock to the cool cobalt waters of a pool below.

chapada

Day 10

Full day trip to the highlights of Chapada.

After breakfast there's a full day guided adventure into the Chapada Diamantina. Drive from Lençois to the Mucugezinho river, and trek to the black lake of Poço do Diabo. From here there's a chance to visit Lapa Doce cave, which involves about an hour's exciting walking underground. You’ll also visit Pratinha Cave, a beautiful subterranean river and lake in which you can cool off with a dip if you feel so inclined. Later, drive to Pai Inacio plateau and walk the last 300m for today's grand finale: perhaps the most amazing, far-reaching view in Bahia.

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Day 11

Full day exploration to Fumaça Falls in the Capao Valley.

Start today’s adventure with a 2 hour drive from Lençois to the remote community of Capão which sits within the heart of the stunning tablelands of the Chapada Diamantina. From here, there's a 12 km walk to the top of the steaming Cachoeira da Fumaça (waterfall of smoke). At 340m this is the second highest waterfall in Brazil and the only way it can be viewed in its entirety is to lie horizontal and peer down into the canyon! A picnic lunch is included at the top of the waterfall, before the hike down - which offers more magnificent views over the Capão valley. Return to Capão for a visit to the village and, on the drive back to Lençois, maybe stop at Riachinho for a swim. 

David Nichols ©

Day 12

By road to Praia do Forte on the Atlantic coast.

Bahia's coconut coast is lined with golden beaches backed by lofty palms. Just an hour north of Salvador is Praia do Forte, a low-key and low-rise resort which is also a protected haven for sea turtles. Beyond its car-free main strip, lined with small bars, shops and restaurants, are miles of beaches and natural pools which offer a warm bath at low tide. You have two full days of leisure here: swing in a hammock, fruity cocktail in hand, or dip your toes in the ocean.

praia do forte

Day 13

At leisure in Praia do Forte.

From July to September, humpback whales can be spotted off the coast. This is one of the most endangered species on the planet; the one-time population of 150,000 has reduced to an estimated 35,000. Your optional tour starts with a visit to the Humpback Whale Institute for a brief lecture about the preservation of the species, after which there’s a short walk to the beach where you board a boat heading to the whales’ habitual location. There’s a 90% chance of spotting one of these magnificent creatures.

Pousada Porto da Lua

Day 14

At leisure on the beach.

Praia do Forte embraces some the most beautiful beaches in Brazil. The sands are soft and golden and coconut palms sway in a gentle breeze. The area has been well protected with a view to conservation, and there is a turtle preservation project close by. The village itself, which once earned its living through fishing, has adapted tastefully to welcome visitors in a friendly, low key way. You can wander the sandy streets, browsing craft shops and stopping off for a cool drink at pavement cafés. Further afield you might visit the small wetland which is replete with birdlife, reptiles and crocodiles. Biking and walking are possible in the nearby Sapiranga forest reserve, where there is also a zip-line.  

praia

Day 15

Transfer from the hotel to the airport for the first stage of your flight home.

Essentials

Tour info

Transport

2 domestic flights, scenic road journey between Salvador and the Chapada Diamantina (6-7hrs ); return journey between Lençois and Praia do Forte also takes around 7 hours: on Thursdays and Sundays there’s a one-hour flight (charged extra if you opt for this). .

Accommodation

We have selected a modern beachfront hotel in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro; a family-friendly property at Iguazú and good mid-range options in Salvador, Lençois and Praia do Forte.  All have well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and air-conditioning or heating.

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch days 10,11.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 30 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Summary Of Nights

15 days, 14 nights: Rio de Janeiro 3; Iguazú Falls 3; Salvador 2; Lençois 3; Praia do Forte 3.

Currency

The unit of currency in Brazil is the real.

How To Take It

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Daily Spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$50 per person per day (less for children evidently) should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and tips.

Tipping

Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 – 12% in restaurants.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport Taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

If flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your online ESTA application.

Journey Grade

This is a busy trip, ideal for the active family, and we recommend children should be over 10 years old. There are a couple of long road journeys, and we’ve included two very rewarding full-days out in the Chapada Diamantina, where the terrain is rocky and hilly and where it can be hot and humid (especially Dec-Mar). One of these excursions includes 12km of walking. You need to be fit but no special equipment or extra training are necessary. If you prefer to do less hiking or include more days at leisure simply let us know. If you have a disability or other special requirements, please call us.

Climate

The weather in Rio is very hot, humid in December to March with temperatures frequently reaching 40 °C and tropical storms are common. The rest of the year is a bit cooler, especially June to August which can see some lovely sunny days at 25°C but also periods of cloud and drizzle. Iguazú is also a tropical destination, similarly hot in the southern summer Dec-Mar, cooler and sunny at other times but it can be cold at night in June and July. Salvador is an all-year destination, hot and humid with most rain falling from April to July. The Chapada Diamantina is also hot (27-32°C) all year round with most rain April to July.

Clothing And Special Equipment

For day-to-day wear you should take loose-fitting, breathable clothes. Comfortable walking shoes sandals are recommended.  A sun hat, sun block and sunglasses are essential, and you should take a light fleece for cool nights and a Gore-Tex or waterproof layer (and or umbrella), as well as swimwear, insect repellent and a torch. 

If you plan to go to good restaurants or out on evening entertainment trips, you might want to bring something a bit smarter as well (although formal attire will not be required).
At the Iguazú Falls you can get very wet from the spray. Some travellers like to take dry clothes in a bag.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following; typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

As of 2018, visitors to Brazil travelling on our holidays should be protected with a vaccination against yellow fever, and carry the corresponding certificate. In April 2013, the World Health Organisation Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation concluded that a single primary dose of yellow fever vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained immunity and lifelong protection against yellow fever disease, and that a booster dose is not needed.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

What's included in the price

  • Services of our team of experts in our London office
  • Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides
  • All land and air transport within Latin America
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Meals as specified
  • Excursions as specified, including entrance fees

Included Excursions

  • Visit to samba school in Rio
  • Cable-car ride up Sugar Loaf Mountain (helicopter ride optional, charged extra)
  • Guided visit to bird park at Iguazú
  • Guided discovery of the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls; boat safari
  • Full day guided exploration of the Argentine side of the Falls
  • Panoramic guided tour of historic Salvador
  • Guided opportunity to swim in the natural pools at Rio Serrano, Chapada Diamantina
  • Full day highlights tour of Chapada Diamantina National Park, near Lencois
  • Full day walking-based excursion to the Capao Valley and Fumaca waterfalls

What's not included in the price

  • Tips and gratuities
  • Meals other than specified
  • International flights to Latin America
  • Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
  • Optional excursions

Real Latin America Experts

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Mary Anne Nelson
    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert

    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tour sales team.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

  • Evie Oswald
    Evie Oswald - Travel Expert

    It's hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.

Meet the team